Lucky 7! Lakeland’s John Brown Is A Gator

Big John Brown is a Florida Gator. The big tackle, anchor of a defensive line that helped the Lakeland Dreadnaughts win three state championships in a row and the last two national high school championships, selected the Gators Thursday morning. Coach Bill Castle confirmed that Brown will be the seventh of his Dreadnaughts to commit to Coach Urban Meyer and the Gators.

Brown, a 6-1, 290-pounder that dominates the middle, is Florida’s ninth five-star commitment as the Gators continue their relentless march to the top recruiting class in the nation. Brown joins Lakeland teammates tailback Chris Rainey, wide receiver Paul Wilson, cornerback Ahmad Black, wide receiver Paul Wilson, linebacker Steven Wilks and offensive guards Michael Pouncey and Maurkice Pouncey as Gator commitments.

With Brown in the middle of the Lakeland defensive line, it was rare that any team had much of a running game against the Dreadnaught, who won 45 games in a row. At Florida, Brown will probably play the nose tackle. Castle thinks his big tackle will be right at home in Florida’s defensive scheme as well as being in Gainesville with his good friends and teammates.

“I think John felt Florida was the best place to be,” Castle said Thursday morning. “He likes the coaches, likes the school and so many of his teammates are going to be there. I think that was very important for him and had a lot do with his decision. I think Florida got a good one.”

It was a unique situation for Castle at Lakeland to have so many outstanding athletes together on one team.

“What was so great about all these kids is that they never let egos get in the way of winning,” he said. “They were all about winning and doing whatever it takes to help Lakeland High School.”

Castle has been coaching at Lakeland for 30 years. He knows he may not ever have another group like this one.

“We may not ever see another situation like this ever again with seven kids, who are such good athletes and such high character kids, all going to one program, and then all going to school at the same place to play at the next level,” he said.

Brown is known for his intensity on the playing field, but the ferocity on the field is quite a contrast to his off the field demeanor. Once the game begins, Brown is relentless in his pursuit of the football.

“John’s a quiet kid and he plays hard every down … I think that’s one of his strengths because he won’t take a play off,” Castle said. “He’s been a dominating factor in the interior of our defense for the past three years. He’s a very strong, explosive athlete that’s been a big part of why we have played great defense the last three years. He’s had the double teams and the triple teams and he never complains about it. He just gets the job done.”

Castle says that Brown is a great player because he’s very coachable but also because he is a tremendous athlete for someone so big and burly.

“It’s a combination of his explosiveness, use of his hands and getting off the blocks,” Castle said. “He uses his hands to keep people away from his feet and legs. He’s very strong in the upper body and he’s got quick hands to go with the quick feet. He’s as explosive a kid off the ball as we’ve had here in all the years I’ve been here.

“He has a lot of savvy and good instincts … instinctively has good feet and the upper body strength and balance so nobody is going to knock him off his feet. He’s as good as any defensive lineman that we’ve ever had.”

Brown is Florida’s sixth consecutive five-star commitment. He and five-star defensive tackle Torrey Davis may form the interior of one of the best defensive lines in the country over the next four years. Certainly, they will rank as the best defensive tackle duo signed by anyone in the country when announces its final rankings.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.